This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
I never tire of quoting Godard, who said, "The way to criticize a movie is to make another movie." Now comes more proof. A few weeks after "When Do We Eat?" a dreary comedy about a dysfunctional Jewish family at Passover, here is "Keeping Up With the Steins," a fresh and lovable comedy about a dysfunctional Jewish family planning their son's bar mitzvah.
The family is headed by Adam Fiedler (Jeremy Piven), a Hollywood agent who is envious when his archrival Arnie Stein (Larry Miller) throws a bar mitzvah for his own 13-year-old that includes an ocean cruise, a giant model of the Titanic and a trained killer whale wearing a yarmulke. "I'm king of the world," the younger Stein cries, his arms outstretched as the Titanic sails into a ballroom and Adam Fiedler grows morose.
Adam consults with his wife Joanne (Jami Gertz) about a bar mitzvah to shame the Steins. It may involve booking Dodger Stadium and having his son Benjamin (Daryl Sabara of "Spy Kids") arrive from the sky. Money is no object. Hiring a singer? How about Neil Diamond?
The problem with this grandiose scheme is that young Benjamin has no heart for it. Because he narrates the movie, we learn from his point of view that he feels embarrassed by all the attention, overwhelmed by the scope of the ceremony and terrified by his inability to master Hebrew in time to read it aloud during the religious prelude to the conspicuous consumption. He is also sad that his grandfather Irwin (Garry Marshall) has not been invited; Irwin and Adam have not been on speaking terms for years.